January 13, 2023

Archdiocesan seminarians attend funeral of Pope Benedict XVI

Archdiocesan seminarians Khaing Thu, left, and Samuel Hansen stand on Jan. 3 in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican after praying before the mortal remains of Pope Benedict XVI. (Submitted photo)

Archdiocesan seminarians Khaing Thu, left, and Samuel Hansen stand on Jan. 3 in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican after praying before the mortal remains of Pope Benedict XVI. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Archdiocesan seminarian Khaing Thu had a deep respect and love for Pope Benedict XVI long before the retired pontiff died on Dec. 31, 2022.

He saw it as the work of divine providence that he was in Italy at the time of the pope’s passing and was able to take part in his funeral on Jan. 5 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

Thu was traveling in Italy after Christmas with fellow archdiocesan seminarian Samuel Hansen in part to visit a great aunt of Thu who is a religious sister living in Milan. The pair were scheduled to fly home from Rome on Jan. 6, the day after Pope Benedict’s funeral.

On their arrival in Rome on Jan. 3, they went to St. Peter’s Basilica to pray with thousands of others before the mortal remains of Pope Benedict. Two days later, they attended his funeral.

“I don’t think anyone except God could have so perfectly planned out our trip,” Thu said.

Archdiocesan seminarian Samuel Rosko was visiting France with another seminarian at the time of Pope Benedict’s death.

“Once the Vatican announced the date for the funeral, we bought tickets immediately and flew over to Rome for about 24 hours and then returned to France,” Rosko said.

Both Rosko and Thu are receiving their priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

Thu is in his first year of formation there after graduating from Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and Marian University, both in Indianapolis. Rosko is in his third year of formation at Saint Meinrad and is looking forward to being ordained a transitional deacon in the spring.

Attending the funeral of Pope Benedict was important for both seminarians because they saw in him an inspiration for their discernment of a possible call to the priesthood.

“Pope Benedict’s writings and his papacy had a profound impact on me as I was discerning entering seminary and throughout my entire seminary formation,” said Rosko, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. “In a particular way, his writings on the sacred liturgy have been especially formative for me, as well as his witness to a beautiful and reverent celebration of the sacred liturgy during his pontificate.

“He is one of the most significant theologians of our time as well as an example of pastoral leadership and love.”

Thu, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, sees in Pope Benedict an “example of the Good Shepherd who is meek and humble of heart.”

“There are many theological and pastoral insights that I can learn from his writings,” he said. “As a priest, I hope that I will be reminded of his humility and gentleness.”

Just taking part in the mourning for Pope Benedict as his mortal remains laid in St. Peter’s Basilica—then attending his funeral—were formative for Thu.

“We were with many other people from around the globe with different backgrounds,” said the seminarian, a Myanmar native who moved to Indianapolis with his family about 10 years ago after they experienced many hardships in their military-junta-led home country.

“Even though we all seem very different, our oneness is manifest in our faith. Our faith brought all of us together in one place to pay our respect to a person who is very special to all of us. I can say that I felt the universality and oneness of our Catholic faith there.”

At the funeral, Thu sat next to a nun from India who now works at the Vatican. In front of him were a German family and a group of religious sisters and priests from Brazil.

“It did not bother me that I was not able to communicate with them because I did not know their language,” said Thu. “What truly mattered was that we were united as one body of Christ through faith. God brought all of us there to celebrate the life of Pope Benedict XVI and pray for his soul.

“I was also proud to be there representing our archdiocese because I know that there are many people [here] who loved him dearly.”

Rosko arrived at St. Peter’s Square at 5:30 a.m. on the day of the funeral because he wanted to sit as close to the altar as possible. He ended up getting a seat about 20 rows back.

“From there, I was able to see almost everything at the altar and felt very close to the celebration,” he noted.

At the start of the funeral, he saw Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict’s longtime personal secretary, approach the late pontiff’s casket.

“[He] placed the Book of the Gospels on top and then knelt down and kissed the coffin,” Rosko said. “This was very moving for me.”

At the end of the funeral, Rosko watched as Pope Francis “lovingly touch the coffin and spent a few moments in prayer.

“These two instances really showcased how beloved Pope Benedict was and how he was a father figure to so many,” Rosko said. “I joined the shouts of ‘santo subito’ [‘sainthood now’] at the end of the funeral because I think Pope Benedict was an embodiment of virtue and his teachings and witness are very important for us to look to. May he pray for us before the Father.”

(For more information on a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit HearGodsCall.com.)


See all our coverage of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

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